I took some time this morning to drive down to the south end of town and visit my friend Jim, head of the Maple Gang, who runs a far more elaborate maple operation than I’ll be capable of anytime soon. He’s been boiling for three days so far and I’m pretty sure than by the end of the day he’ll have made more syrup than I will all season. I’ll be happy to end the season with two, maybe three gallons. I stopped in on him this morning to absorb some knowledge, and came away with a great idea that’s bound to increase my production!
It’s called a preheater. On a rig as big as one that Jim has, this device would be about the size of a small wagon and fit snugly down over the top of his boiler. The idea is that incoming cold sap is stored her before it’s dropped into the evaporator and is heated to almost boiling temps by the steam from underneath. Now when your sap is added to the boiler, it’s needs almost no extra heating. You’re getting even more use out of the heat you’re already generating. I started thinking that i could get my brother to weld me up a contraption that would work with my humble setup, but by the time I got home I had a better (and faster) idea.
I snatched a couple of my wife’s cake pans and slogged back out to the shack. Neither pan is big enough to completely cover the top of either pot I’m using (despite what it looks like in the pic) so steam can still escape. As you can see, I’m able to get the sap up to around 180 degrees before I add it to the pot. After just a few hours of doing this, I found that I had added all my collected sap to the pot with almost no lag time on the boil. Before now, I’d add cold sap directly to the pot and then have to wait 15-20 minutes for it to get hot enough to boil again. A quick test showed that I could get a pan full of sap up to 150 degrees in the same amount of time. Then I started thinking: I need more sap!!
Suddenly I’m thinking that I can actually make enough syrup this season to cover my costs and still have some left for friends and family. I needed more taps! Up until this point I had used every last scrap of tubing and type of tap I could find from years past. I even forced some tubing onto the ends of metal drip spouts. Anything I could find. Now I needed more. So I bit the bullet, grabbed the girls and skipped down the road to the tractor dealership to pick up some more taps and tubing. Did I mention that I have a maple equipment supplier at the end of my road? Sure do. Convenient, no? I picked up 10 more taps and 24 feet of tubing for just 8 bucks. Then I came home and added taps until my drill needed to be recharged. (Poor thing. It’s only good for half an hour of reliable service anymore, and only has the one good battery. I’m gonna have to put the ‘ol girl down later this year…) I put in 5 more taps (see what see what I mean about the drill?) and I have enough to add 5 more before the end of the day. That’ll give me 23 total, and I should just be able to keep up with the output. I’m going to take a chance on a tree in the lower yard that I’ve never tapped before. It’s got a big crown and looks young and healthy. This could be my best season yet, and it’s only just begun.